Oxford University Press launches ‘Poetry of Belonging’: Muslim Imaginings of India 1850–1950 by Ali Khan Mahmudabad

New Delhi: Oxford University Press, the world’s largest university press, launched ‘Poetry of Belonging – Muslim Imaginings of India 1850-1950’ by Ali Khan Mahmudabad today. The book engages with the question of Muslim rootedness in India. Using poetry as an archive and the site of its performance, the book charts changing understandings of what it meant to be Muslim and Indian.

The book launch took place in the presence of the author Ali Khan Mahmudabad . This was followed by a panel discussion and remarks on the books with eminent panelists including Prof Aparna Vaidik – Associate Professor of History, Ashoka University; Ph.D. Jawaharlal Nehru University; Prof Apoorvanand – Professor of Department of Hindi, Faculty of Arts, University of Delhi; and Dr. Saif Mahmood – New Delhi-based author, poetry and literature critic, commentator, translator, rights activist, and an Advocate of the Supreme Court of India.

Poetry of Belonging is an exploration of north-Indian Muslim identity through poetry at a time when the Indian nation state did not exist. Between 1850 and 1950, when precolonial forms of cultural traditions, such as the musha’irah, were undergoing massive transformations to remain relevant, certain Muslim ‘voices’ configured, negotiated, and articulated their imaginings of what it meant to be Muslim. Using poetry as an archive, the book traces the history of the musha’irah, the site of poetic performance, as a way of understanding public spaces through the changing economic, social, political, and technological contexts of the time.

The book seeks to locate the changing ideas of watan (homeland) and hubb-e watanī (patriotism) in order to offer new perspectives on how Muslim intellectuals, poets, political leaders, and journalists conceived of and expressed their relationship to India and to the transnational Muslim community. The volume aims to spark a renegotiation of identity and belonging, especially at a time when Muslim loyalty to India has yet again emerged as a politically polarizing question.

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